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Final Fantasy 15’s Road Trip Changed RPG Parties Forever

by Staff

Parties in RPGs are nothing new. They are a staple in Dungeons & Dragons, continue to be a relevant part of the genre in games like Octopath Traveler, Ys, Tales of, and Persona, and date back beyond the advent of RPGs with The Lord of the Rings and other epic fantasy tales of heroes. Final Fantasy 15 is no different, but at the same time, it’s nothing like any party-based RPG that came before or after.

The usual formula follows reluctant allies pushed on globe-trotting adventures that see them fending off some world-ending threat. Final Fantasy 15 throws that aside and gives us four friends who set out on a road trip with the initial going being Noctis’ marriage—the whole premise is friends driving around in their car, taking the piss out of each other, stopping to eat at every mediocre diner, and sometimes sleeping in RVs because they’re tight on cash. There’s even a photographer among you who documents the trip, with you all reminiscing at the end of the day about all the wild things you’ve seen and done.

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So few party games capture that road trip feel because their open worlds are rooted in generic conventions and formulas that leave no breathing room for the smaller moments between the cast. The banter among friends and conversations about what’s in front of them, as we saw in Tales of Arise, only scratches the surface.

Final Fantasy 15 lets us argue over who drives, spend long stretches on the road together, has us stopping at gas stations where each of the group split up to lounge about while they wait to refuel, and doesn’t rush your adventure. Road trips are so fun because it’s a relaxed holiday between pals, and even as the main quest ramps up, we see characters like Prompto begging to see the Chocobos or take detours so they can take in the sights.

Final Fantasy 15’s map is huge, so travelling takes a long time and lots of stops. That lends itself to the road trip feel, like we’re crossing America with our friends, but it doesn’t bog down the exploration. Gas station breaks have people organically lounge about, but we also get to pop into stores where Noctis’ friends will ask us to buy them things, like taking a break to grab a drink or a snack for the next stretch of road in real-life. You can even sit down and grab food to hear the local gossip, picking up side activities to do. It’s not going down to the funfair for the day, it’s usually hunting a giant nightmarish monster, but it makes the road trip feel more fulfilling.

It could so easily be a dragged-out way to get from A to B to try and play on the chemistry of the cast and believably sell them as friends, but instead, it eases us into side quests and helps the levelling process feel less like a grind and more like a bonding activity. That’s made even stronger with the camps where the gang all get together to cook, train, and set up tents, thriving out in the wild together to save money. More importantly, it’s these quiet moments of retrospection where the group have one-on-ones, speaking more intimately and growing closer, which is where most road trips end up. You tend to find out more about the people you travel with since you’re cooped up together in small confined spaces for hours on end.

Final Fantasy 15

At the end of it, I get a huge scrapbook to look back on fondly, as though we really did go on that big journey together. It’s a nice change of pace from RPGs that rush through the adventuring aspect of fantasy stories to hammer through plot points, treating the in-between as little more than a dull excuse to chuck random encounters at you for levelling.

Here, I get to hit the road, play CDs we picked up on the way, and enjoy that back-and-forth banter between people who are so clearly friends, through thick and thin, rather than a group of random strangers shoved onto the same path.

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